Sunday, November 19, 2017

A plea for sanity

The current controversy surrounding the sexual harassment allegations about Hollywood celebrities and politicians is a cause for concern on many levels. While no-one can defend sexual assault, some of the tone of the press has served to collectivise guilt to the make gender as a whole, while also trivialising the issue with sweeping generalisations that equate minor transgressions like text messages with violent sexual assault. Together the media in the UK and US in particular categorised them all as "sexual harassment".

The actor who plays Asher from the series "How to get away with Murder" recently argued at a CNN Town Hall that all men were complicit with sexual harassment.  I profoundly disagree. To collectivise blame to an entire gender undermines the traditional presumption of innocence upon which common law justice systems like the UK and US are based. But his comment made me reflect on my own schooldays, where I observed few classmates were interested in History as a subject. I was an exception, and often trace the differing perspectives of younger millenials on questions like gender-wars to a failure to learn of and learn from the past mistakes of witchhunts (such as Salem and McCarthyism). 

For sure punish those guilty of sexual crimes. But don't devalue the trauma of actual victims by blanket statements such as equating unwanted - but not malicious - flirtation or your male boss complimenting you on your appearance. Not every man is an ogre, and not every objectionable behaviour is sexual harassment. And no - words are not a firm of violence or micro aggression.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Regulation not Prohibition

The interminable debate over proposals to criminalise purchasers of sex took another turn last week with the publication of the report by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. Predictably it recommends the so-called “Swedish model” but it also includes draconian proposals to treat visitors to prostitution websites as sex offenders and ban the provision of premises for prostitution. Senator David Norris has condemned the proposal to criminalise purchasers as “horribly sanctimonious”. The provisions criminalising the grooming of children for sexual purposes are welcome. But the other provisions concerning only consenting adults are fatally flawed. Experience has shown that the Swedish model endangers women and drives the trade underground. It also contrasts sharply with the more liberal direction of many EU member states.

In 2009, the EU-funded Daphne II study found Sweden had the highest per capita incidence of rape in the EU, and that statistical reporting differences do not account for it. In Sweden, 46 incidents of rape are reported per 100,000 residents. This figure is double as many as in the UK which reports 23 cases, and four times that of the other Nordic countries, Germany and France. The figure is up to 20 times the figure for certain countries in southern and eastern Europe. The study, which is financed by the Brussels-based EU fund Daphne II, compared how the respective judicial systems managed rape cases across eleven EU countries. Sweden is shown in an unfavourable light, according to the study. The high figures in Sweden can not it seems be explained purely by an increased tendency to report rapes and other more minor sexual offences. Rape simply appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in the other EU countries studied, the researchers argue. Over 5,000 rapes are reported in Sweden per annum while reports in other countries of a comparable size amounted to only a few hundred. As with abortion, the Swedish model is an Irish solution to an Irish problem. The trade would be driven underground or abroad. After an initial drop after Norway adopted the Swedish model, reports indicated that within 18 months, it had returned to its previous levels. A November 2010 report in Sweden also found an explosion in prostitution in neighbouring Nordic countries after the new laws came in there in 1998. In Sweden itself there was evidence that while street prostitution had declined, online prostitution had increased. Quite apart from the moral/religious element in this debate are the implications for the safety of the prostitutes themselves. By proposing to outlaw the provision of premises for the purposes of facilitating prostitution, and to criminalising the viewing of prostitution websites, the report risks driving prostitution back onto the streets, with all that implies for their safety.

 By moving towards prohibition, Ireland sets itself at odds much of Europe, where liberalisation is the dominant approach.

 - In the Netherlands, prostitution has been legal and regulated since 2000. The ban was lifted for two reasons: first, to improve the sector as a whole and the position of sex workers by introducing licences, and second, to tackle abuses by taking firmer action against businesses operating without licences. Article 273f of the penal code outlaws forced and child prostitution, profiting from it, and forcing prostitutes to surrender their earnings. Regulations on premises specify the minimum size of working areas and govern safety, fire precautions and hygiene. For instance, every working area must be equipped with a panic button, and hot and cold running water. Condoms must be provided.

 - In Italy prostitution is legal, but organized prostitution (indoors in brothels or controlled by third parties) is prohibited. Brothels became illegal in 1958, but single sex workers working from apartments are ‘tolerated’. A 2010 court decision created a new precedent, that clients who did not pay the worker would be considered guilty of rape. This was considered a major breakthrough for sex workers’ rights. Of 558 workers attending a STD clinic in Bologna between 1995 and 1999, only 1.6% tested positive for HIV.

 - Prostitution is legal in Germany. Prostitutes may work as regular employees with contract, though the vast majority work independently. Brothels are registered businesses that do not need a special brothel licence; if food and alcoholic drinks are offered, the standard restaurant licence is required. Every city has the right to zone off certain areas where prostitution is not allowed. In Bavaria, law mandates the use of condoms for sexual intercourse with prostitutes, including oral contact. Pimping, admitting prostitutes under the age of eighteen to a brothel, and influencing persons under the age of twenty-one to take up or continue work in prostitution, are illegal. It is also illegal to contract sex services from any person younger than 18. In 2006 Cologne took in 828,000 euros through taxing prostitution.

 - Spain decriminalised prostitution in 1995, while pimping remains illegal. Owning an establishment where prostitution takes place is in itself legal, but the owner cannot derive financial gain from the prostitute or hire a person to sell sex because prostitution is not considered a job and thus has no legal recognition. The Catalan government licenses brothels as “clubs”, though in some areas street prostitution is fined.

 The correct approach is a legalised, regulated and taxed sex industry. Regulations can reduce STDs by enforcing the use of condoms and the rights of sex-workers to adequate pay and conditions and to non-violence.No such recourse exists when the trade is driven underground as in this country. It will be for the Government to decide whether to proceed with the report. The supporters of prohibition range from the Catholic Right to the Feminist Left. Biblical denuniciations of prostitutes as “fallen women” do not fit comfortably with feminist conceptions of gender equality and agency. Feminist arguments that the trade exploits women fail to account for male prostitution. This debate has followed a depressing pattern familiar to observers of Irish politics – namely the forced consensus. The forced consensus has done this country great harm in the past. Forced consensus once silenced the victims of the Church in the industrial schools and the Magdalene Launderies (once managed among others by present Ruhama trustees the Sisters of Charity). Wexford TD Mick Wallace and Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White had the courage to question the prohibitionist consensus in the past but were browbeaten into silence by what the latter called “extreme leftwingers and those on the high moral ground”. If our democracy is to survive it is imperative that there be diversity of opinion on matters of conscience such as this.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FG internal poll predicts 82 seats

With the moratorium on election-reporting only applying to broadcasters, the Irish Daily Mail is today reporting the findings of internal polling by FG. The predicted seats for each party are: FG 82, Labour 30, SF 14, ULA 4, Greens 2 and Independents 12.

Constituencies of interest:

- Laois-Offaly to be only 2-seat FF constituency. But second seat “shaky”
- To lose seats: Sean Haughey, Pat Carey, JOD, Dick Roche, Barry Andrews, Billy Kelleher, Bobby Aylward, Brendan Smith, Michael Mulcahy, Michael Moynihan,
- Brian Lenihan “hanging on by fingertips” in Dublin West).
- Mary Hanafin and Mary Coughlan “fighting for their political-lives”.
- Sargent and Ryan to hold seats.
- With CC, 82 would be sufficient for a working-majority. FG-Greens would have majority of 4.

Hard to call constituencies:
- Wexford hard to card because of Mick Wallace candidacy (Ind).
- Carlow-Kilkenny hard to call because of “potential for geographical-voting across party lines”.
- “Hard to know” if Aine Brady will hold on in Kildare North.
- DL. “Fine Gael now believe their second candidate, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, will take the final seat at the expense of the ULA’s Richard Boyd Barrett”.

On the credibility of the research:

“But analysts from other parties have always acknowledged the accuracy of the tallies, which are based on national and local opinion polls, bookies’ odds, private local tracking polls and reactions on the doorstep.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sinn Féin to win Donegal by-election - Poll

The latest by-election poll from Red C (conducted for Paddy Power) in the Donegal South-West by-election campaign confirms SF on target to take the seat. The trends below are comparisons with General Election 2007. The candidate support figures are: Pearse Doherty (SF) 40%, Brian O’Domhnaill (FF) 19%, Barry O'Neill (FG) 15%, Frank McBrearty (Lab) 14%, Thomas Pringle (Independent) 8%, and Anne Sweeney (Independent) 2%. In transfer-terms, the numbers are: Pearse Doherty (SF) 19%, Brian O'Domhnaill (FF) 10%, Barry O'Neill (FG) 14%, Frank McBrearty (Labour) 20%, Thomas Pringle (Independent) 9% and Anne Sweeney (Independent) 7%. As a result, Paddy Power have shortened the odds on Doherty taking the seat from 1/5 to 1/8. The poll shows Fianna Fail candidate Brian O’Domhnaill fares poorly from Sinn Féin transfers. Barry O’Neill, Fine Gael and Frank McBrearty Junior, Labour; both secure a similar share of first preference vote in the constituency at 15% and 14% respectively, but initial analysis of transfers puts McBrearty ahead. Asked for General Election voting-intentions, Sinn Féin take 31% of the first preference vote - 10 points ahead of their impressive performance just over 3 years ago. The Labour vote in Donegal SW has risen by 15 percentage-points to 18%. 46% in the constituency prefer Eamon Gilmore as Taoiseach, compared to 18% for Enda Kenny, 13% for Brian Cowen, with 13% favouring none of these and 10% undecided. Fianna Fáil score just 19% in General Election voting-intentions.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010

The Government has published the revised wording of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010. The original wording was withdrawn earlier in the year following hundreds of wrecking-amendments in Committee by the Opposition (especially Labour with its absurd demand that illegal immigrants who claim to have been trafficked should be allowed a 6-month visa automatically even if they refuse to cooperate in prosecutions of traffickers). The bill would:

- Remove the requirement to give failed asylum-seekers 14 days to appeal their deportation-orders, by repealing section 3 of the Immigration-Act 1999. This is necessary because 6,000 failed asylum-seekers have gone on the run to evade deportation and more would follow unless notice of date of deportation is abolished.

- Requires immigrants to enter via "approved ports" and present themselves to an Immigration-Officer. This could reduce the incentive to enter via NI, from where 90% of our asylum-seekers enter the state (according to the govt).

- Require the presentation of travel-documents at the frontiers of the State except for Irish/UK nationals.[quote]26.—(1) A person (other than a national of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland who has travelled directly from Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man or an Irish citizen) arriving or attempting to arrive from outside the State or entering or attempting to enter the State shall be in possession of a valid travel document.

"(2) A person (including an Irish citizen) arriving or attempting to arrive from outside the State or entering or attempting to enter the State shall—

(a) comply with such reasonable instructions as an immigration officer may give for those purposes, and

(b) furnish to an immigration officer such information in such manner as the immigration officer may reasonably require for the purposes of the performance of his or her functions, and where the immigration officer requires a person other than a foreign national to provide biometric information—

(i) the biometric information need only be furnished to the extent necessary to enable the immigration officer to compare it with any biometric information in a travel document furnished by the person, to establish that that travel document relates to him or her and to establish the validity of that travel document, and

(ii) the biometric information is not otherwise authorised to be retained, stored or compared to any other biometric information.

(3) A person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence.

(4) For the purposes of this Part, a person coming from outside the State who arrives at any place in the State shall be deemed to have arrived at a frontier of the State.

.—(1) A person (other than a person to whom a waiver has been granted under section 24(4), a national of the United Kingdom ."

- introduces new offences (Section 149) of knowingly facilitating the entry of illegal-immigrants into the State.

This is a welcome and much overdue piece of legislation and it is imperative that on this occasion, the Government govern instead of pandering to an Opposition without (in 2010) a mandate to govern. Cosy-consensus is harmful to the democratic-process because it allows a minority to dictate to a majority. It is imperative that on this occasion, the Government pass the Bill. Write to Brian Cowen, Dermot Ahern and John Gormley to push for its enactment this year. In a recession charity must begin at home. We cannot afford the annual asylum-bill of €300 million, wasted on property-moguls and free legal-aid. We must send a message that another PAMA-style asylum-scam will not be tolerated still less rewarded.

As ever, the dogooders in the Immigrant Council of Ireland are not to be outdone in the bleeding-heart stakes:

" ...Council chief executive Denise Charlton said the redrafted Bill would perpetuate an immigration system that was unfair, inefficient and costly. She said the introduction of “summary deportation” would enable the State to remove people without appeal and could lead to serious injustices.

Under the current system, people have 15 days to appeal a deportation order. She said the legislation made no allowance for people in exceptional circumstances in relation to summary deportation, whereby lawfully resident migrants – or even vulnerable Irish people suffering from mental health problems – could be removed from the country without a right of appeal.

“The council is deeply concerned that the introduction of summary deportations could even result in the deportation of vulnerable Irish citizens or lawfully resident migrants who are unable to prove they have a legal right to be in Ireland,” said Ms Charlton.

She said the provisions in the redrafted Bill on summary deportation run contrary to recent Supreme Court decisions and a recommendation from the UN human rights committee."

This organisation also campaigned vociferously against the Citizenship Referendum in 2004 and as such lacks credibility as a barometer of public-opinion. Those considering voting Labour for the first time would do well to take note of Michael D's opposition to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill's introduction of summary-deportations for failed asylum-seekers. It underlines once more what a disaster a Labour Justice/Immigration Minister would be for Irish immigration-policy and the control of our borders. Do-gooders like the Migrant Rights Centre insist on keeping the discredited 14 days to appeal deportation, in spite of the fact that this has led 6,000 failed asylum-seekers going on the run:

"...Siobhán O’Donoghue of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said the new Bill in its current form would end up a bonanza for lawyers and cost taxpayers money needlessly by provoking court challenges.
“Even a criminal facing extradition gets 14 days to make an appeal whereas this Bill removes this right for people who have committed no crime,” she said.
Labour TD Michael D Higgins said summary deportation broke basic human rights. He said the new version of the Bill was a step backwards when compared with a previous version of the Bill, which TDs spent hundreds of hours poring over in the Oireachtas...

We can't trust Labour on immigration. The new FG Justice Spokesman also continues to manifest a bleeding-heart approach to the issue:

"Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter said the Bill failed to adequately address the human rights of immigrants and their families and the rights of Irish citizens to a full family life in circumstances in which their spouse was neither a citizen of the State nor of any other EU country.
Labour’s Pat Rabbitte said that, within certain conditions, his party would seek to amend the Bill to address the central issue of the right of family reunification.

Granting "family-reunification" would have the consequence of doubling, tripling or quadrupling the number of immigrants relative to the numbers already claiming asylum. This is grossly unfair to the 450,000 unemployed. If provision is made for family-reunification, they ought to include paternity-tests and - where adoption is claimed - verifiable certification of adoption. The claims by anti-deportation campaigners and the Opposition parties that the Bill would mean "summary-deportation" is ludicrous in the context of one of the most generous asylum-appeals systems in Europe. As explained by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in the Dail on 06/10/10:

"The Bill effects a radical restructuring of the State’s asylum determination processes. It has been apparent for some time that the principal question that most protection claimants want answered is not “Will you recognise me as a refugee?” but “Can I stay?”. That question is currently answered in a multi-stage process whereby the first aspect examined, by the independent Refugee Applications Commissioner, is whether the applicant is a refugee. Most negative determinations of that aspect are appealed to the independent Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Following a negative determination on appeal, there is a lengthy process whereby the Minister must determine whether the person is eligible for subsidiary protection and if there are other reasons why the person should be let stay. This sequential process is cumbersome, ineffective and inefficient and causes inevitable delays in the final decision; and delay itself can affect what the final decision is to be."

That is why the IRP will require asylum seekers to give all their reasons for applying for asylum at the beginning of the process rather than later on:

"The Bill introduces a single procedure wherein the protection applicant will be required to set out all of the grounds, including protection grounds under the Geneva Convention and the EU asylum qualification directive on which he or she wishes to remain in the State. Those grounds will be investigated by the Minister and the outcome of the investigation could be that the person is either allowed to remain in the State on refugee grounds or subsidiary protection grounds and is granted a protection declaration or is not granted protection but allowed to remain in the State on other discretionary grounds and is granted a residence permit on that basis, or is not allowed to remain in the State and is thus required to leave or be removed.
The introduction of the single procedure will bring the State into line with processes in many other European states. Under the Bill, the functions currently carried out by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner will be subsumed into the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, the administrative agency of my Department. The present statutory provisions for UNHCR to have access to information about cases and to be present if it wishes at individual interviews are restated, and it is my intention to continue the co-operation that has existed with UNHCR, in particular in regard to that body’s signal contribution so far to training of staff in the refugee decision-making process. The UNHCR has stated at many meetings with me that it wishes to see the expeditious passage of this Bill.

A question for the ICI, FG, the Labour Party etc.: how can the bill be racist if it has the support of the UNHCR? More from the Dail debate on the Bill can be found here.


Monday, October 18, 2010

EU clampdown on immigration-debate

In another case of the erosion of democracy in Europe, the PASDE (Party of Socialists and Democrats in Europe) - the second largest party in the European Parliament - has demanded so-called 'Far Right' parties be excluded from cooperation, coalition or 'implicit support' by all other political parties. This flies in the face of democracy and the right of Europeans to self-determination. It also reflects the Left's frustration at their rejection by European citizens as millions of Europeans reject their open-door attitudes to immigration and the failed ideology of multiculturalism.

"Throwing down the gauntlet to Europe's conservative and liberal parties, some of which have in recent years become less reticent to join coalitions or alliances with nationalist and populist parties, the continent's Socialists have called for a 'cordon sanitaire' around the far-right by the mainstream. The leadership of the Party of European Socialists, the pan-European political party that brings together all European social democratic outfits, on Friday (15 October) adopted new five-point code of conduct on how to act around extreme right parties, which have seen a sharp rise in support in many countries in the wake of the economic crisis. "Regarding this threat ... all European parties should sign up to our plan to refuse to work with the extreme-right," the party's president and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. Specifically, the party is calling on mainstream left, right and centre parties to reject any ruling coalitions, electoral alliances or any "implicit support" with far-right parties and to isolate members who break the cordon sanitaire. In the Netherlands, the new minority government of the conservative-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the centre-right Christian Democrats enjoys backing from the anti-Islam and anti-immigrant Freedom Party that in the Netherlands in a similar formulation to the parliamentary support the nationalist Danish People's Party provides to the governing minority of the Conservative People's Party and centrist Venstre. Europe's centre-right, the European People's Party, is currently considering how to react to the call.

"Unfortunately we have seen some mixed signals in recent months," Mr Rasmussen said of the new Dutch coalition's dependence on the far right. Earlier this month, the PES condemned the centre-right's silence over the development, with the group's general secretary, Philip Cordery, accusing the EPP of "power whatever the cost." "The European People's Party's reaction to the new Dutch government has shown the true intellectual weakness of the Conservatives in Europe," he said on 4 October in the wake of the Dutch parliamentary pact. The PES also criticised Wilfred Martens, the president of the EPP, for saying that his party would not work with the far right at the European level while leaving the door open for member parties to do so nationally. EUobserver was unable to reach Europe's liberals in the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party for their reaction to the call.

But on Thursday, the group's president, Belgian MEP Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck issued her concern at the new Dutch government while not condemning the move. "What worries me is that this government is depending on the support of a radical right party, to put it mildly. I hope this is not going to push it in a direction I would not like it to go," she told EUobserver. Socialists themselves have in parts of Europe been known to embrace the far right in order to cobble together a parliamentary majority. In 2006, the Slovak centre-left, Smer, entered into a coalition with the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) and as a result was suspended from membership of the PES and only readmitted in 2008. The PES also called on all parties to not "take up [the extreme right's] ideas into its political principles or policies." On Monday, the governor of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, said Germany should end immigration from Turkey and Arab countries because citizens of these lands allegedly do not "integrate" into German society as well as others. "It's clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties. From that I draw the conclusion that we don't need additional immigration from other cultures," Mr Seehofer, of the Christian Social Union, the more conservative sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told Focus magazine. The comments, condemned as "shocking" by Ms Merkel's integration commissioner, Maria Böhmer, come after Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin claimed in a book published in August that German Muslim immigrants were not integrating, that they were less intelligent and that they use more social services than other citizens.

Mr Sarrazin, a member of Germany's centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) also said that with their high birth rate, they threatened to overwhelm the ‘native' German population within a few generations. The SPD has since announced it is considering revoking Mr Sarrazin's party membership. According to the Berliner Morgenposten, some 18 percent of Germans would vote for his party if he started one. The country so far has been one of the few European states not to witness a sharp growth in support for far-right parties".

PASDE's demands represent a gross insult to the millions of voters of immigration-control parties and the denial of their rights to political-representation. It also represents a brazen attempt at censorship and interference in the internal-affairs of member states. The Left can't handle rejection and consequently, are lashing out at their opponents. These demands also recall the failed diplomatic-sanctions against Austria in 2000 after the entry of the Freedom Party into a Coalition-government with the People's Party. The consequence of those sanctions was to increase Euroscepticism in Austria and support for the new government. The ball is now in the Centre-Right EPP and ALDE's court. They should reject the PES demands for a "cordon-sanitaire" around so-called 'Far Right parties'. In any case, the term is in the eye of the beholder. For example, how can:

- A party that is pro gay-marriage and pro-Israel. (Dutch Freedom Party).
- A party that supports a cradle to grave welfare state (Danish People's Party) and the repeal of blasphemy-laws, and is pro-Israel.

Be "Far Right" organisations? My point on them being pro-Israel is to demonstrate that it proves they are not anti-semitic - which removes one element in traditional fascism and so-called 'Far Right' ideology. (I am a staunch critic of Israel and opponent of anti-semitism but my point is that being staunchly pro-Israel and anti-semitism are hardly compatible). Clearly this farce is an arbitrary ploy by the Left to seize power by denying Coalition partners to their Conservative and Libertarian opponents by depriving them of their democratic-rights to represent their supporters in government if necessary. Write to Irish MEPs to demand they oppose this measure.
These outbursts have to be seen in the context of the rejection of the Left in:

- The Swedish General Election on 19th September 2010 in which the Sweden Democrats entered Parliament for the first time. The Social Democrats had their worst showing since 1914 at just over 30%.
- The Viennese local elections on 11th October where the Social Democrats lost their overall majority (falling from 49% to 44%) and the Freedom Party gained 28% of the vote and more than doubled their seats from 13 to 28.
- The victory of the CDU-FPD Coalition in German on 27th September 2009 where the SPD fell from 34% to 23% - its worst losses in its history.
- The fall of the UK Labour Government in the British General Election on 6th May 2010, following the 'Bigotgate' affair where Brown was recorded calling an elderly lady concerned about immigration a "bigoted old woman".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Labour back in third place - Poll

Labour are back in third place behind FG and FF according to tomorrow's Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post. Credits to Jacko from for this information.

FG 31% (-2)
FF 24% (nc)
Labour 23% (-4)
SF 10% (+2)
Green 3% (+2)
Ind 9% (+3)